Monday, November 10, 2014

I'm a Quitter. Of Cigarettes.

This post is in honor of the Great American Smokeout and the Quit for Life movement. It's a long one, but I want to share the darker, more tar-stained side of myself with you, especially if you're a smoker who is trying to quit. It's possible.
Oh, heck no, you don't. Until you do... someday. [via]
I started smoking cigarettes when I was seventeen to be rebellious (even though my dad was dying from cancer and heart disease related to his 30+ years of smoking), to calm my ever-present anxieties, and to look cool and detached. Plus, I loved the feeling of lighting up a cigarette after a day in high school. It felt adult. At the time, I thought to myself, "I'll quit when I start college." 

Here's a timeline of my smoking from age seventeen to now, 'cuz I FER SURE didn't quit smoking when I started college. 

Everybody on campus smoked. How was I going to meet people if I didn't smoke?! [via]
College started and smoking was part of my life. It was a way to get away for a few minutes when I was waiting tables or needed a break between classes. It was a way to look "cool and detached" when meeting new people. Cigarettes tasted great with coffee. When I was eighteen and starting to smoke more than I did when I was seventeen, I thought to myself, "I'll quit when I turn nineteen."

At nineteen, I started dating the future Hubs. He didn't like smoking, so I told him I didn't smoke. I was a bad liar. There aren't any pictures of me smoking from the time we started dating because I didn't want him to know I smoked. If I knew I was going to see him, I would smoke and then chew gum and spray myself with Bath and Body Works spray. I really thought it worked-- Bath and Body Works spray is strong. In reality, who was I kidding? You can smell smoke on someone the minute you come into contact with them. I didn't know-- my sense of smell was not so good because, duh, smoking. I thought to myself, "I'll quit if we get serious."

Twenty and Twenty-One:
Twenty came and I smoked for all of the same reasons as when I was eighteen and nineteen. As a someone who has always been a workaholic, the only way I would slow down and take a break was if I was taking a smoke break. At twenty, I moved in with the Future Hubs. After I moved in with Future Hubs, I tried to quit, but it was too hard. I was full of excuses. I just told myself I'd never smoke in front of him. He was, after all, playing with the band in smokey bars and everyone smelled bad when they got home. Like, smelled bad FOR DAYS. Twenty-one approached and I knew I couldn't quit yet-- beer tasted so good when accompanied by a cigarette. I thought to myself, "I'll quit when I get a real job."

Twenty-Two to Twenty-Four
I got my first teaching job at twenty-two. My first year teaching was terribly stressful. My teacher friends and I would leave the school during out plan period and smoke cigarette after cigarette while driving around the block in one of our cars. We'd smoke and laugh and vent-- it was my favorite time of the day. I thought to myself, "I'll just smoke for the first few years of teaching and quit when I'm twenty-five. Then teaching won't be so stressful."

The Angry Smoking Phase [via]
At twenty-five, I got married to the Hubs. It was beautiful. I was down to smoking one or two cigarettes at day-- did I mention I always enjoyed running for fun and had stuck to my habit of running three to five miles a few times a week this whole time? Running kept the cigarette number down. A few months after our wedding, I blew out my knee while training for a half marathon and settled in for a long year of surgery and recovery. Then the surgeon said no more running, never again. At twenty-five?! A piece of me died and I got really depressed. I smoked to relieve the stress of being injured. I thought to myself, "I'll quit when I'm up and walking and less depressed."

Twenty-Six to Twenty-Seven:
I lost almost fifty pounds by not eating. No exercise was involved-- just very obsessive not eating. I decided to not quit smoking because I didn't want to put any weight back on. I thought to myself, "I'll quit when I'm at my goal weight."

In the winter of 2010, I tried to quit because my best friend was quitting. I stuck to it for four months with lots of flavored gum and tins of mints, but I eventually quit quitting. I'd put on almost twenty pounds and I kept getting sick with sinus infections after I quit. It was too hard. In the spring of 2010, the Michigan Smoke-Free Air Law was passed. No more smoking in bars and restaurants meant I had to move myself outside during the Hub's shows and now everyone could smell it. I stopped smoking at bars and restaurants. One day, the Hubs pulled up next to me while I was smoking in my car. He called my cell. "Was that YOU smoking while I drove by?!" Busted. I quit smoking in my car. The real quitting had begun. Then it was erased when I went to Paris and everyone was smoking. I succumbed to peer pressure and smoked. It felt great. I thought to myself, "I'll quit when I get home. When in Rome..."

Twenty-Nine: The Year of Becoming a Quitter
Thank you, swimming. 
In August of 2011, at the age of 29 and a few months before I articulated all of my athletic goals on my 30b430 list, I finally quit smoking for real. After returning from my second summer in Senegal, I was sitting around and feeling extremely out of shape. I went out and got a gym membership. With the membership came a free health assessment. My weight was back up-- WAY up. The health assessment did not give my a glowing review of my health. And I was still smoking. WTF.
Ran a 10k last April. Boo to you, mean surgeon-- and he was mean. I'm not just picking on him. 
So, I quit. It felt like my 1000th time quitting, although I'm unsure of what number the actual attempt was. I didn't do it with patches, gum, or e-cigarettes. I did it with swimming. I got into the pool and tried to swim one length. I couldn't. My chest was caving in. I thought I was having an asthma attack. I wanted to pass out. "OH, HELLS NO!!!!" I said as I finally reached the end of the pool lane. It sounded more like, "OH" sigh, breath, cough, phelm, "HE" breath, breath, "LLS," cough, wheeze, breath, "NO."
I can bike over twenty miles now. Without wheezing.
I quit cold turkey and started going to a water aerobics class with a feisty group of women over fifty until I could work out for an hour straight.
Not these feisty ladies. Healthier feisty ladies. [via]
Then I took swim lessons. Then I started swimming laps on my own. Then I decided to start biking, then I decided the rebellious thing to do as I approached thirty was to start running again (because EFF YOU surgeon), and then I decided that triathlons were for me.

What I Won (Besides My Age Division) by Quitting
August, 2014: Still tri-ing, still a quitter.
This list isn't from a quit smoking website. It's based on what I noticed about myself after I quit smoking:
1. I can breathe.
2. I can breathe.
3. I can breathe.
4. I smell nice.
5. My car smells nice and there are no burn holes in the seats.
6. I don't have to wash my jeans after each wear.
7. I don't have to brush my teeth to kiss the Hubs.
8. My teeth are merely stained from coffee, not tobacco.
9. I can swim almost two miles.
10. My body is healing itself from the years of abuse. I can feel it, I swear! It's awesome! Regeneration!
11. I don't sound hoarse after a night of non-stop smoking.
12. I get sinus infections a lot less than I did when I was smoking. I don't know if this is something that happens to all people who quit, but it happened to me!
13. If we have kids, our kid won't be the one whose worksheets smell like cigarettes when they turn their work in. It's a thing I noticed when I was teacher. Just go with it.

Check out the Great American Smokeout Tools and Resources if you're interested in quitting. It took me more than ten years, but I did it. So use the tools and resources. Or, just quit cold turkey. Or, get some gum. Or, get Chantix. I don't care how you do it, as long as you're doing it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That is an AWESOME accomplishment. Nobody does it the first time, or sometimes even by the 10th time. You ROCK!!!!

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